Match Preview: Stoke City Vs Manchester United
United were rather fortunate to take all three points in the corresponding fixture last season. The Potters had a fantastic record at home, that they look like carrying through to this season, and it took a last minute goal from Carlos Tevez to ensure United emerged victorious that day. I’m expecting another hard fought encounter if I’m being honest, Stoke always battle hard and they won’t make things easy for Rooney and co.
Both Stoke and United played in the Carling Cup during the week night but Sir Alex rested some of his star players his counterpart at Stoke City, Tony Pulis, chose to field a strong starting eleven. In all honesty I doubt this will make a huge amount of difference to Stoke and both teams should be ready for this one. The Potters were desperately unlucky to concede in the last minute in their 1-1 draw with Bolton last weekend and have been in good form since the season kicked off.
United have no new injuries to worry about with just long-term absentees Edwin Van der Sar, Owen Hargreaves, Obertan and Rafael ruled out. Stoke are similarly blessed with a lack of injuries and will be missing just Amdy Faye and Mamady Sidibe, who have both hardly featured this season.
The key men for United will be their forwards. Even though Stoke are the home side you have to expect United to be the team pressing and Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen, should he make an appearance, will probably get a few chances each, at least. Rooney has been in fine scoring form and hopefully that will continue on Saturday, Berbatov could do with a goal to boost his confidence as much as anything else and the game against Stoke could be a good opportunity for him to find his shooting boots again. Owen has scored one, that winner against City – beauty, and set one up in his last two appearances and if he can continue to deliver the goods like that I’m sure Sir Alex will show him some more action.
I certainly wouldn’t go betting on Manchester United to lose this one but Stoke do have players who can cause problems. Rory Delap’s long throws are often talked about but in reality this is not where the majority of Stoke’s goals come from, as some have suggested, though they are a danger. They are a very good team from set-pieces and Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand will have to stay alert to deal with the high balls into the box. The Potters also have a couple of flair players like Ricardo Fuller and Tuncay Sanli, a recent acquisition from Middlesbrough, while Liam Lawrence is capable of shooting from range. On paper United are of course the superior side but we all know that in football that doesn’t always matter.
Stoke surprised everyone last season when they upset the upset the Premier League relegation betting odds and avoided the drop. This time though the other clubs, including United, know what to expect and will have figured out a better way to deal with their very physical and direct style of play. It should be a very hard fought game, if not the most attractive match you’ve ever seen, with a highly-charged atmosphere. It won’t be easy but I expect United to take all three points. After the win against City last weekend I’m expecting United to go into this one full of confidence and take all three points away from the Britannia Stadium back to Old Trafford.